by Meredith Bethune
Photography by Kate LeSueur
After igniting the grill on the back deck, Tito Beveridge rinses four chicken thighs with a garden hose. The torrent of water streams onto the grass below instead of contaminating his pristine kitchen inside. “I don’t really jack around. And I don’t really get a lot of stuff dirty,” explains the animated founder of Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
Beveridge has just returned from the distillery where he goes every day when he’s in Austin. He tastes every batch and nothing is bottled or sold unless it meets his exacting standards. A former geophysicist and oilman from San Antonio, Beveridge started making vodka for a couple of simple, but compelling, reasons. “We drank a bunch of Wild Turkey when I was younger…and then tequila,” he recalls with a smile. “But then I discovered vodka was a lot easier on me. And the girls we hung out with, they always liked drinking vodka, too.”
Dotted around the Beveridge property is a collection of roadside art—a passion built via frequent travel for work. On the front lawn looms a large metal crocodile. “I love that,” Beveridge says, “like when they make birds out of hose and tractor parts. I like folk art.” Sometimes he’ll place a newly acquired treasure on the shelf of the living room, he says with a chuckle, “and it doesn’t necessarily stay there when I go to work.”
Beveridge’s wife, Lori, prefers minimal decor in their airy West Austin home—a few pieces of Mexican art, white walls, dark hardwood floors and brown leather couches. It’s spare, but still cozy and approachable—perhaps even “tasteful,” as Beveridge confesses that their furniture was recently repaired after one of the family’s three dogs chewed on it.
As far as other types of chewing going on in the house are concerned, Beveridge says that having a family has definitely changed his approach to cooking. “I’ve got kids,” he says while placing the chicken thighs on the sizzling hot grill. “I used to make all these complicated marinades, but they wouldn’t eat it.” He’s learned to keep things simple, and now his kids proclaim him “the best cook!”
Although Beveridge eschews fussy recipes, his gregarious demeanor turns serious while explaining his grilling technique, “At the beginning, I always go high, and it kind of seals everything in,” he says. “Then I flip it over on high and add a little salt and a little pepper. Then I’ll turn it down and cook it some more to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.”
Beveridge dashes back inside to retrieve a stick of butter from the fridge. With the wrapper still clinging, he slices it through the center and grips one half with the tongs. Rubbing the exposed end on the chicken, he bathes the meat in melted butter while avoiding another mess. “I don’t like to do stuff I don’t have to do—like clean pans,” he says. After flipping the chicken, he coats the other side with the other half stick of butter.
Since Lori and the kids are currently out of town, he’s shunning their favorite broccoli and green beans side dish in favor of other vegetables. Cradling a whole head of feathery bok choy in his hands, Beveridge declares with a smile, “I don’t know how I’m supposed to cook bok choy, but I know I like to cook bok choy.” He places it on the grill and arranges lengthwise slices of zucchini around it.
Returning to the kitchen, he demonstrates an easy, oil-free salad dressing of fresh-squeezed lime juice, orange juice and a glug of Bragg Liquid Aminos. “Off the oil, on to the butter!” he jokes, referring to the generous stick he used on the chicken.
Finally, he drops a few ice cubes into a tumbler and pours in some Topo Chico, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and leftover citrus slices from the salad dressing. In well under an hour, he’s produced a satisfying meal and a refreshing cocktail with little cleanup. “When you sit down to eat,” he says with pride and a smile, “the only thing you have to clean is your plate.”